BEAR CREEK - Extensive repairs and renovations that have been done to allow Twin Forks campgrounds and park to reopen have come with a tall price tag, leading to a discussion regarding finances and false statements on social media that culminated into a heated disagreement at the Bear Creek Council meeting April 9.
Despite the disagreement, the council did agree to take action at their meeting Monday, April 15, concerning transferring funds to cover expenses the town has incurred while performing the repairs and renovations.
The project was done so Twin Forks could reopen April 15, after being closed since March 1, to do the needed work, as well as make the park more attractive and inviting to campers and visitors.
“We need to discuss the expenses with Twin Forks campground. We have taken everything out of the general fund account,” Mayor Tammie Batchelor said at the April 9, meeting of the council.
Batchelor passed out to council members paperwork showing the expenses incurred from the work done at the ballfield concession stand area, with funding needing to be transferred from the town’s savings account in order to reimburse $4,307.27, which was only a portion of the town’s costs.
The total in the town’s savings account was $13,000, noted town clerk Jamie Green.
“It’s really abused over there,” the mayor said, referring to the bathroom area of the concession stand.
“We are going to have to pump the septic tank at the concession stand because the women’s bathroom keeps flooding,” Jamie said, noting it would cost $250 to pump the septic tank.
“We just pumped the (tank) at the campgrounds. It was full,” Batchelor pointed out.
Council member Daniel Green asked what wiring work had to be done at the campsites and park.
Batchelor responded all the wiring in the bathrooms had to be completedly redone.
A question then surfaced as to how much was the total cost of work done at the park, including the electrical.
Batchelor responded around $27,000.
“They didn’t even know how bad it was until they got in there,” Jamie said, noting that campers in the past had been straight-wiring behind the breaker box.
“It’s a wonder somebody didn’t get killed,” council member Jimmy Preston pointed out.
Daniel said the town paid Chester Barber of Industrial Services $904 to tell the town how much the work was going to cost.
“If you could have seen what we’ve seen, what he uncovered after he went in there,” Batchelor told Daniel. “You can evaluate from a distance, but when you start getting into that stuff, it’s a totally different ball of wax.
“I saw what he went through and what he checked. He went through all the bath houses and the concession stand. But when he started digging, wiring was spliced here and spliced there.
“Open water lines were zip-tied to electrical wires,” Batchelor continued. “That was something he was not prepared for.
“It falls back to the town not staying on top of our job,” Batchelor further stressed.
“There’s been no maintenance on that campground, no true maintenance, probably since it has been open,” noted Twin Forks Campsite Manager Kathy Preston.
Daniel stated that the town spent $15,000 some time ago for somebody else to do wiring at the park.
Jamie responded that work had to be redone, because the wiring had not been properly done.
“I’m not saying he did it right,” Daniel said. “I’m saying we spent $15,000.”
Attorney Cole Christopher referred to the meeting held by the town council approximately two years ago when they voted to charge an additional $25 fee to each camper, with the additional money placed into a savings account to be set aside for maintenance of the campground and the ballfields.
“There was nothing distinguishing which one,” said Christopher, referring to the division of fees at $12.50 going to the town and $12.50 going to the park and rec.
“The minutes say $25 from each spot on monthly rent was to go into a savings account,” Christopher noted.
“Well, she wrote the minutes wrong,” Daniel interjected. “I think the whole town knows that $12.50 goes into that savings account, and you look what has been deposited. (Tammie) can attest to that. What gets deposited in there was $12.50, not $25 because it was split.
“So the money that was going into that savings account was for the ballfield and the other $12.50 was to remain in the general fund,” Daniel continued.
“I still think the whole $25 should go into the savings account,” Batchelor responded.
“It’s for maintenance either way,” Jimmy noted, “either way you put it.”
Christopher suggested it would take more than $25 in additional fees from each camping spot each month to cover the needed maintenance costs.
“I agree,” Batchelor responded.
“I know y’all were opposed to having a separate account for the campground and the ballfields, but with the new accounting product we are supposed to get through the TVA and BCDA...I think it may be easier that you set up a separate checking account for that,” Christopher said.
Christopher recommended building up the account and leaving in it a percentage for maintenance then transferring funds to the general account as needed.
“If you have that separate account, that whole maintenance issue is not going to be a problem,” Christopher said.
“That way you never get in this predicament again of having to stretch everything to cover your maintenance,” he pointed out. “If the campgrounds ever get to where it was before, you are going to have this problem.
“...It will leave plenty of money for park and campground maintenance...The town has to operate the ball fields and the campground...The town is responsible for the requirements being met, that it is kept up.”
Christopher was referring to the terms of the revised 30-year contract that was signed April 5, between the Town of Bear Creek and Bear Creek Development Authority.
Batchelor said the contract stipulates that the campgrounds and ball fields are town property and are not publicly owned. They are the town’s responsibility for upkeep.
“We are under contractual agreement to maintain,” Batchelor said.
Daniel then asked, “Does it mean we need to lock down the playground and the track area? That’s a public park on BCDA property we have to keep up.”
Batchelor responded, “I don’t care. That’s up to y’all. In the beginning, you were one of the ones who did not want the public to use the field. You were against that. You wanted the park and rec to use the softball field.
“When we first entered into this, you were one were one of the ones who wanted to lock the fields and let nobody use it because they had people who tore up the field,” Batchelor continued, addressing Daniel.
Batchelor said there was a difference in people using the field and leaving on lights, with the town having to pay high utility bills and city employees having to maintain the field, with the mayor responsible for their overtime.
“If the city is not held accountable, I am fine with the public using it,” Batchelor said.
Christopher suggested the town consider closing the ballfields at night.
Daniel said people using the fields have torn up bases and left on lights.
“That’s been an issue. It’s all over Facebook. We’re saying one thing in here, but we’re not saying it out there,” Batchelor quickly responded.
“The mayor doesn’t make those decisions. I have a council that votes on it. The truth needs to be told, that I’m not the bad guy here,” Batchelor exclaimed.
“Whatever is brought to me, I bring to the table. You are saying one thing in here, then you’re going out there and saying another. That’s wrong because you need to stand behind what you are saying,” Batchelor said.
“We have worked hard over there,” Batchelor continued. “We have worked some long hours. I am all for the park and rec board, but not one of those members has shown up to help. Not one. I’m getting ready to have a town meeting with them.
“This monkey should not have just been put on ten people’s backs, and it was,” Batchelor said. “I am a little bit bothered by this because you can’t get on (social media) and try to swoon people and tell them something you want to hear when you are not holding up to your end of the deal. That’s what’s going on up here, and I don’t like it.”
“Who are you talking about?” Daniel asked.
“You,” Batchelor responded.
“What I am supposed to be doing?” Daniel then asked.
“You’re sitting there and telling about the place being public and you’re agreeing with a gentlemen on Facebook that it’s public. That’s not public, Daniel,” Batchelor said.
“We talked back and forth on Facebook about it,” Daniel said. “I said I would look into it, and I haven’t talked any more about it because I also brought up the fact, if you read it, that the reason it was closed is because we’ve been having a problem with bases stolen, lights left on, stuff like that. He made some suggestions of what could be done, and I came back and said I would look into that.”
Batchelor responded, “I know everybody wants to say I am making this Haleyville. I am not trying to make it Haleyville. What is wrong with taking care of what you have been blessed to have? We have worked to get it back in shape because it was ridiculous, the shape that place was in.”
Daniel responded, “That’s what I brought to his attention on Facebook. We’ll bring it out in the open. He brought up some things about how it wasn’t open to the public. I said the reason why is because people are leaving lights on, which is costing us money. That people are leaving trash and stuff over there, tearing up bases, costing us money. He came with some different things. I forgot what it was and I came back and said you have brought up some good points. I will look into it,” Daniel pointed out.
“I also received messages that you said you were going to get it where it would be open year round,” Batchelor responded.
“I never said that,” responded Daniel. “I haven’t had a chance to discuss any of this with y’all whatsoever...I defended exactly what we’ve been talking about up here, why we shut it down was because of all the damage, the left-on lights and all of the expense it was costing us all of the time having to repair and that came from the park and rec board.
“Don’t be putting words in my mouth,” Daniel said.
“I am not putting words in your mouth,” Batchelor responded. “That is exactly what I read on Facebook and what I was told.”
“That’s the problem up here,” Daniel said. “People up here want to listen to what they are told behind closed doors. They don’t want to come out in the open.
“I talk about it on Facebook out in the open. Go back and read it,” Daniel pointed out.
Christopher said it all boils down to the town adhering to the terms of the newly revised contract with BCDA.
Jimmy noted he thought there were responsible people on the park and rec board that would take care of what the town has.
“If they go to leaving lights on, toting bases off or trashing, as far as I’m concerned, I am done with it,” Jimmy pointed out. “If they will respect it and treat it right, I think we should all look at it that way.
“We need to educate the public on what can and can’t be done,” council member Chris Gillum stated.
“I am not trying to be ugly,” Batchelor said. “I am all for (the park). My grandkids wanted to go over there. I wouldn’t let them go. I haven’t asked Jamie if anyone is using it. I don’t want to be painted as the bad guy. I don’t get to vote on this stuff. I just bring it to the table. I get to take the hundreds of phone calls from people griping about the decisions we made.”
She was referring to the parks being closed, including the ballfields, until repairs and renovations could be completed.
“I want the council to stand behind me,” Batchelor continued, “because I stand behind you. That’s what I want.”
“We are going to take care of what we have,” added Jimmy. “We’ve got to.”
“I ain’t seen which council member hasn’t stood behind anybody,” Daniel said.
Batchelor said town employees cannot always stop everything they are doing in other places in town in order to take care of the fields at Twin Forks.
“We’ve got T-ball kids who have more rights than anybody,” Batchelor said. “They have more rights than anybody because they are part of the park and rec...besides the Phillips softball team, nobody else really has any business being over there.
Speaking of the damage or vandalism going on at the ball fields and other areas of Twin Forks, the mayor said, “If you abuse something, you ought to be held accountable.
“There is a difference in a walking track and a playground versus a ball field. There is,” Batchelor said. “If you could see what Kathy (Preston) had to clean out of that bathroom...I dare say no one would have touched it.
“There is accountability. There is structure. There are rules that you have to follow,” Batchelor pointed out. “It doesn’t matter if they like it or not.
“I promised them (BCDA). In detail, I assured them that we would adhere to the contract,” Batchelor pointed out.
“We keep everything to where they are able to play on the fields. The playground is safe for them to play on. They are presentable.
“Daniel, you wanted the swings painted. They didn’t get painted because it turned off cold, but they are painted now. All that stuff is done.
“Everything I know you had mentioned got done,” Batchelor addressed Daniel. “It’s not like we’re not trying to do it. You are limited with people you have got to work.
“...The people who are raising cane about this are the very ones that have in the past - I have been told by several people - disrespected the campground and other things over at the lake.
“I am against us just turning everything over to them, turning it back like it was,” Batchelor continued. “We have worked entirely too hard.”
Christopher suggested the town adopt rules for the use of the ball fields, as they have done for the campground.
“I agree,” Batchelor responded.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.